Gold Coast: The Indian women's hockey team begins their Commonwealth Games campaign against Wales here on Thursday, with an eye on ending its 12-year medal drought at the multi-sporting event.
The women's team had last won a Commonwealth Games gold in 2002 followed by a silver in 2006. (Follow India's Day 1 Schedule)
Brimming with confidence, the Rani Rampal-led Indian team is eager to begin the show. "We are here to finish on the podium and nothing less," said Rani who led the team to Asia Cup victory in November last year.
But to reach the podium, the team needs to get past the initial hurdle in Pool A which has Wales, Malaysia, England and South Africa.
"It is a challenging Pool but I believe we can advance to the next stage," asserted Chief Coach Harendra Singh on the eve of their first match.
Though India have excelled in the past against Wales, Rani said the team will not rely on history.
"Every tournament is like a new chapter, any team can come up as a winner and we cannot take an opponent lightly going by previous results," she said.
Their second match on April 6 is against a lower ranked Malaysia who are No. 22 in the world. It is their third match against Olympic champions England on April 8 that will put this team to test.
England are undoubtedly strong contenders for the gold medal and to doing well against them will be a big motivation for the Indian team.
"We have worked in the past two months at the national camp with the sole purpose of doing well against European and Oceanic teams. Our focus on improving strength and agility was mainly to stay up to speed when we play against a quality team like England and we are looking forward to that match specifically to see where we stand," Rani said.
The team's final Pool match will be against South Africa on April 10.
Top two teams from each Pool will make it to the semifinals.